zany

noun
za·​ny | \ ˈzā-nē How to pronounce zany (audio) \
plural zanies

Definition of zany

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a subordinate clown or acrobat in old comedies who mimics ludicrously the tricks of the principal : merry-andrew
2 : a slavish follower : toady
3a : one who acts the buffoon to amuse others
b : nut, kook

zany

adjective
zanier; zaniest

Definition of zany (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : being or having the characteristics of a zany
2 : fantastically or absurdly ludicrous a zany movie

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from zany

Adjective

zanily \ ˈzā-​nə-​lē How to pronounce zanily (audio) \ adverb
zaniness \ ˈzā-​nē-​nəs How to pronounce zaniness (audio) \ noun

Did You Know?

Noun

Zanies have been theatrical buffoons since the heyday of the Italian commedia dell’arte, which introduced those knavish clowns. The Italian zanni was a stock servant character, often an intelligent and proud valet with abundant common sense, a love of practical jokes, and a tendency to be quarrelsome, cowardly, envious, vindictive, and treacherous. Zanni, the Italian name for the character, comes from a dialect nickname for Giovanni, the Italian form of John. The character quickly spread throughout European theater circles, inspiring such familiar characters as Pierrot and Harlequin, and by the late 1500s an anglicized version of the noun "zany" was introduced to English-speaking audiences by no less a playwright than William Shakespeare (in Loveas Labouras Lost).

Examples of zany in a Sentence

Noun

hired a zany to entertain the children at the birthday party one of the challenges of hosting a radio call-in program is preventing the zanies from completely taking over the discussion

Adjective

a zany plan to drive cross-country on a motorized scooter
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The zaniest of the zanies, and one of Grimm’s favorites to play, is Dahlia Whitney, the murder victim’s wife. Myrna Petlicki, chicagotribune.com, "'Murder for Two' is a two-man show with one actor playing 12 roles," 3 July 2018 In Tasmania, the idea gradually turned into a bit of a joke: the island’s very own Bigfoot, with its own zany, rivalrous fraternities of seekers and true believers. Brooke Jarvis, The New Yorker, "The Obsessive Search for the Tasmanian Tiger," 16 Jan. 2012 This is a cast of zanies, all vying for center stage. David Lyman, Cincinnati.com, "Wanna see 'Clue' onstage? 'Murder For Two' might be for you," 11 May 2018 His zany, foul-mouthed Mayor Adam West first appeared during the second season of the hit Fox show and has been recurring ever since. Los Angeles Times Staff, latimes.com, "A Star Is Born: Natalie Portman turns 36 today," 9 June 2017 The argument continued as the group decided to go to a comedy club in Nashville called Zanies instead of the restaurant. Kevin Spain, USA TODAY, "Panthers' Michael Oher cited for assaulting Uber driver in Nashville," 4 May 2017

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Republicans in Washington stumble around trying to figure what to stand for beyond capitalizing on whatever zany thing some socialist said today. Peggy Noonan, WSJ, "Republicans Need to Save Capitalism," 14 Feb. 2019 Netflix has been producing some fantastic animated shows over the past few years, using the flexibility of the medium to tell powerful stories by mixing zany comedy with heavier themes. Samantha Nelson, The Verge, "Disenchantment lacks the magic of Netflix’s other animated originals," 7 Aug. 2018 Play with them on for zany fun that drives every player equally insane; turn them down and cull your favorites for some classic, Mario Kart-style juice; or turn them off for pure Smash combat. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, "Smash Bros. Ultimate review: The best fighting game on any Nintendo system," 6 Dec. 2018 This might look like a zany cybernetics project at a glance, but the pup is only being manipulated by its jacket, which is rigged with several flashlights. Sam Blum, Popular Mechanics, "Scientists Made a Remote-Control Dog with a Vest and Some Lights (and a Dog)," 5 Nov. 2018 After years in development, the sequel should offer even more zany worlds to explore, and a chance to be reunited with your favorite characters. Andrew Webster, The Verge, "The 40 games we can’t wait to play in 2019," 26 Dec. 2018 That unpolished aesthetic makes gaming laptops perfect for zany convertible designs. Eric Limer, Popular Mechanics, "Bring on the Wacky Convertible Gaming Laptops," 7 Jan. 2019 My mom couldn't resist pulling over to every roadside junk shop in search of the unusual and the zany, and that rubbed off on me. Douglas Brenner, House Beautiful, "Leslie Klotz on Her Parisian-Inspired Apartment in Manhattan," 8 Dec. 2014 Epic continues to add zany new items like a structure-destroying ATV, deployable fortresses, and invisibility stones to mix it up. Nick Statt, The Verge, "Black Ops 4 merges Fortnite and PUBG into the best Call of Duty in years," 19 Oct. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'zany.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of zany

Noun

1588, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

1609, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for zany

Noun

Italian zanni, a traditional masked clown, from Italian dialect Zanni, nickname for Italian Giovanni John

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about zany

Listen to Our Podcast about zany

Statistics for zany

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for zany

The first known use of zany was in 1588

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for zany

zany

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of zany

informal : very strange and silly

zany

adjective
za·​ny | \ ˈzā-nē How to pronounce zany (audio) \
zanier; zaniest

Kids Definition of zany

: very strange and silly a zany plan

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on zany

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with zany

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for zany

Spanish Central: Translation of zany

Nglish: Translation of zany for Spanish Speakers

Comments on zany

What made you want to look up zany? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

using a distributed computer network

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Time Traveler Quiz: Which Word Came First?

  • time traveler quiz which word came first
  • Which came first?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!